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The Winners and Losers of the Holiday Season

Shoppers were spending in force this holiday season, but while some brands enjoyed big sales bumps, others slumped.
Crowds of Christmas shoppers on 12th December 2021 in Birmingham, United Kingdom.
Crowds of Christmas shoppers on 12th December 2021 in Birmingham, United Kingdom. (Mike Kemp)

Consumers came out in droves this past holiday season, with shoppers spending $204.5 billion from November 1 through December 31, an 8.6 increase over the previous year, according to Adobe.

But shoppers didn’t spread the wealth evenly.

Spending at Shein, one of fashion’s fastest-growing brands, skyrocketed 103 percent year-over-year and 477 percent from 2019, according to data compiled by Earnest Research. The firm analysed credit card data from millions of consumers who spent money from November 1 through December 29.

“The spend reflects their crazy lead in fast fashion,” said Zachary Amsel, director of data analytics at Earnest Research. “During the holidays this year, Shein growth in spending was double the size of Zara.”

Another notable winner of the holiday season was On Running, the popular Swiss sneaker startup that went public last year. Spending at On Running climbed 72 percent, compared to 2020; spending with the footwear brand jumped 354 percent, compared to 2019.

Shoppers also continued to flock to secondhand marketplaces. StockX’s spend jumped 28 percent, and 175 percent from two years earlier, while The RealReal and Poshmark’s spend grew 43 percent and 24 percent, respectively, from 2020.

“Resale, and specifically fashion resale, exhibited the fastest growth this holiday season out of any consumer category,” said Amsel.

A pair of last decade’s buzziest direct-to-consumer brands struggled to regain their footing after experiencing turbulence during the pandemic. Spending at luggage startup brand Away climbed 79 percent, compared to 2020, signalling that shoppers are ready for post-pandemic travel plans to resume. However, Away’s sales have not recovered to pre-pandemic levels, coming in 39 percent below 2019 (a spokesperson for Away disputed the data from Earnest Research, and said its holiday season exceeded 2019 sales).

Beauty brand Glossier’s sales declined 22 percent from 2020, and 33 percent from 2019. Glossier is known for more subtle beauty products that help produce the no-makeup makeup look. But colour cosmetics are experiencing a comeback, as shoppers spending money on post-pandemic beauty want more playful products like dramatic lipsticks and eyeshadow colours.

Customers didn’t visit stores as much this holiday season, especially after many brands pushed shoppers to do their Christmas shopping earlier than usual in 2021 so they could get ahead of supply chain issues. Shoppers’ visits to stores fell 11 percent from pre-pandemic levels from December 1 through December 25.

Editor’s Note: This article was updated on 25 January, 2022 to include commentary from Away.

Further Reading

Last year, American retailers seemed to have broken their habit of relying on deep promotions, thanks to limited inventory and pent-up demand. These beneficial circumstances, experts say, may be disappearing in 2022.



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